DNR asks waterfowl hunters to take precautions for avian flu

With some waterfowl hunting seasons starting Saturday, Sept. 3, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is advising hunters to take precautions for avian influenza when handling harvested birds.

“Waterfowl hunters can take steps to minimize the risk of spreading the virus,” said Michelle Carstensen, DNR wildlife health program supervisor. “We’re already getting reports of highly pathogenic avian influenza in wild and domestic birds before fall, so the virus is currently present in Minnesota.”

While the virus presents a low risk to humans, it is important to avoid contact with sick birds and be mindful that virus may also be transported by your hunting equipment. If you hunt waterfowl and have backyard poultry, plan for added biosecurity measures (bah.state.mn.us/media/HPAI-Notice-Backyard-Final.pdf) to keep your flock healthy.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes the following recommendations for hunters to protect themselves from avian influenza:

  • Do not handle or eat sick game.
  • Field dress and prepare game outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
  • Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game.
  • When done handling game, wash hands thoroughly with soap or disinfectant, and clean knives, equipment, and surfaces that came in contact with game.
  • Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling animals.
  • All game should be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit before being consumed.

Minnesota has a variety of waterfowl seasons that open in September: the experimental early teal season is Saturday, Sept. 3, through Wednesday, Sept. 7; early goose season is Sept. 3, through Sunday, Sept. 18; the youth waterfowl hunt is Saturday, Sept. 10 through Sunday, Sept. 11; and the main waterfowl season opens Saturday, Sept. 24. Waterfowl hunters might see DNR staff at some landings during the season where voluntary sampling for avian influenza will be happening.

In addition to waterfowl hunters, the DNR reminds all hunters to use precautions when handling any harvested game. Anyone concerned about avian influenza in waterfowl can find more information on the avian influenza page of the DNR website (mndnr.gov/AI).